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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court will take up the Punjab government’s appeal against the Lahore High Court’s order to allow the shifting of the Sharif family’s sugar mills.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, will hear the appeal on October 6.

The LHC on 29-06-2021 had allowed a writ petition of Ittefaq Sugar Mills regarding the relocation of mills from Pakpattan to Bahawalpur. Ittefaq Sugar Mills in its petition had relied upon para 50 of the LHC’s earlier order dated 11-09-2017, which stated; “in future if any sugar mill wishes to relocate or shift from one local area to another in the Punjab, it can make an application under Section 3 of the Punjab Industries (Control on Establishment and Enlargement) Ordinance, 1963, if there is no ban on the establishment of the new sugar mill. Any such application will be considered in accordance with the provision of the Ordinance, especially Section 3.”

The Punjab government of PTI challenged the LHC’s order before the apex court. The bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, on September 23 last year allowed the Punjab government’s appeal against the High Court’s order.

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The Punjab government in 2006 had issued a notification banning the shifting of sugar mills from one district to another. However, on December 4, 2015, through another notification, the Punjab government, regularised the relocation of the factory by clarifying that the ban notification does not cover the relocation of the sugar crushing unit.

It allowed the owners of Chaudhry Sugar Mills, Ittefaq Sugar Mills in Sahiwal, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills in Nankana Sahib, Abdullah (Yousaf) Sugar Mills in Sargodha and Abdullah Sugar Mills in Dipalpur to move the units to other districts.

Former secretary general of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Jahangir Khan Tareen and the owners of Indus Sugar Mills and RYK Sugar Mills had challenged the notification of relocation of the mills from Central Punjab to South of Punjab in the LHC. It was their stance that through a 2015 notification the Sharif family had managed to obtain permission to move the sugar mills despite a ban. They also contended that the relocation of sugar is not only in violation of the Punjab Industries (Control on Establishment and Enlargement) Ordinance 1963, but also the Punjab government notification 2006, which had banned the shifting of the mills.

A single bench of LHC Justice Ayesha A Malik on October 11, 2016 had stopped the Sharifs from shifting the sugar mills to new locations. The division bench of LHC on September 13, 2017, not only upheld the verdict of Justice Ayesha but also directed the mills to dismantle and remove their plant and machinery within three months and move them to the location they were at when the court had issued its first stay order in the case.

A three-bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, on September 13, 2018, had prevented the Sharif family from operating and doing business in the relocated sugar mills. They were ordered to remove installation and machinery from the relocated mills within two months. The short order of Justice Saqib said that the mills’ building and setup shall remain intact, and those could be used for other lawful business.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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